Woman breathing, sunset

Want a true philanthropic culture? Make it the air you breathe.

Woman breathing, sunsetYour organization won’t survive and thrive with only great fundraising technicians. Youand the entire social benefit sectorneed organizational-development-grounded philanthropic facilitators. In fact, you need a team – maybe an entire village – filled with them!

This is what it looks like in a culture of philanthropy. And it involves more feelings than tangibles. What does it feel like where you work?

Your organization’s culture can make or break your fundraising – and just about everything else. If you don’t foster a culture in which people want to work, great professionals won’t apply for, or stick with, jobs. You have to be intentional in creating a culture that attracts, retains and grows professionals. The kind who will inevitably build sustaining relationships with supporters.

Here are some things you can do to build a true philanthropic culture.

Say what the culture is, get buy-in; demonstrate it.

To foster an authentic values-based organizational culture, you must first identify and write down the main beliefs that make up the culture. This can be simple – as little as a sentence or single paragraph – but this written manifestation of the culture you want to foster is critical to helping people understand the culture.

Here are some questions to ask yourself or, better yet, to do as a group exercise with a team of staff and/or board.

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Masked author

Secrets to Nonprofit Leadership – Pandemic Phase 3

Masked authorHas this really been going on this long?

Way back in March and April of 2020 I wrote a bunch of articles about crisis fundraising, donor communications in the time of corona and how to adapt your management and planning. Feel free to join me for a walk down memory lane here, herehere, herehere, here, here, here, and here.

Honestly, I’ve been continuing ever since then with as many helpful tips and concrete examples I could dream up and offer.

Today, I’d like to revisit something absolutely fundamental.

It’s not a tip or a tactic. It’s a modus operandi.

Eight months ago Joan Garry wrote True Leadership in the Time of Corona, an awesome piece I commend to you in full. At the time, we were  grappling with the first wave. Now, as we head into a long winter, the lessons from this article are worth revisiting.

As tempting as it may be to pretend everything will soon be ‘normal,’ that’s unlikely. And good leaders don’t bury their heads in the sand. They plan ahead for crisis contingencies.

Leaders ask the key questions:

  1. What if this happens?
  2. If it does, then what?
  3. And then?
  4. And then?
  5. And then?
  6. … until there are no more “and thens?” to ask.

I call this the Cassandra role.

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Bottom Line: Philanthropy Culture Improves Fundraising

“Philanthropic culture is a key driver of fundraising performance.”

Adrian Sargent, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

Is a culture of philanthropy just something that’s ‘nice’ to have? Does it simply make people feel good? Or might it actually affect your bottom line – making it ‘necessary?’

I know I’ve worked with organizations who looked at the notion of developing a philanthropy culture a bit like doing staff morale building or sensitivity training. It certainly sounds good, and who can argue with reports from pioneering organizations like the Walter and Evelyn Haas Jr. Fund (see Underdeveloped, Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy, and Fundraising Bright Spots) and Sea Change Strategies (see Inside-Out Fundraising) that embracing a culture of philanthropy (COP) will bring all sorts of benefits, including recruitment and retention of talent, stronger development plans and infrastructure, a better understanding of the board role in fundraising and a shared understanding of the importance of fundraising across functional siloes.

“As a sector, we need to elevate the importance of fund development as a leadership issue, invest in a stronger talent pool, and strengthen the ability of nonprofits to develop the systems that enable fundraising success.”

Jeanne Bell, CEO of CompassPoint, co-author of Underdeveloped

“Generally, a culture of philanthropy is one in which everyone—board, staff and CEO—has a part to play in raising resources for the organization. It’s about relationships, not just money. It’s as much about keeping donors as acquiring new ones and seeing them as having more than just money to bring to the table. And it’s a culture in which fund development is a valued and mission aligned component of everything the organization does.”

Cynthia Gibson, author, Beyond Fundraising

“Without tackling internal issues head-on, we believe the prospects for major fundraising progress are limited. In most organizations, fundraising is limited more by organizational culture and structure than by lack of strategic or tactical know-how.”

Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, Founders, Sea Change Strategies

Despite the impressive research that’s been done showing the value of a philanthropic culture, too many nonprofits have simply assumed they had one by virtue of merely existing within the social benefit sector. Or even if they understood achieving a true COP took work, they just never moved this from the back burner to the front.

“Many charities are so wrapped up in the process of doing – delivering, raising income, adapting to the panoply of changing circumstances that can radically alter day to day activity – that establishing a truly philanthropic culture might not be high on the list of priorities.”

Adrian Sargent, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

It’s Time for a Change

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"Doing the right thing isn't always easy" storefront art

How Humanity and Trust Supercharge Nonprofit Fundraising

"Doing the right thing isn't always easy" storefront artEveryone is saying it.

Just about daily.

“These aren’t ordinary times.”

We’re living in the face of a firehose of breaking news, and most of it is pretty difficult to digest. Let alone know how to face, handle and get through it with safety and sanity intact.

We can either retreat, live in limbo or figure out a way to navigate through this reality and find opportunities to do our work in new and better ways.

It’s a difficult assignment, because it’s not easy to know where to begin.

We want to come from a donor-centered and community-centered place, but… what exactly might that be in this extraordinary time?

“We’re not only longing for the normal that was – we’re grieving losses yet unaddressed and ignoring some of the most obvious. I know for sure: if we don’t find a way to consciously engage with our losses, when this pandemic is finally over, the soul of our country will still be locked down”

– Oprah Winfrey

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the world most needs right now.

I think it’s humanity and trust.

Usually we have to guess at what will feel relevant to our supporters. Today, we pretty much know. Because we hear it all the time. On the news. On social media. When we zoom with colleagues. When we talk to our friends. When we’re sheltering in place with our family.

  • People want to know who they can trust!
  • People want their fellow humans to act the part!
  • People want to consciously engage — with humans they can trust — in a meaningful manner.

‘Philanthropy’ means ‘love of humanity’. Yet today it sometimes seems all we’re hearing and seeing is hatred of humanity. Us and them. Insiders and outsiders. Democrats and Republicans. Left and right. Young and old. Good and evil. I could go on…

There’s a better way.

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Remember Who We Are: Philanthropy Facilitators Pre 11-2020 USA Election

Your Vote MattersPhilanthropy comes from the Greek and means love (philos) of humankind (anthropos).

  • Nonprofits are here to be kind.
  • To repair the world.
  • To make our communities better, more just, more beautiful and more caring places.

This is not easy work.

  • Love is not always readily accepted or given.
  • Inspiring generosity takes time, talent and patience.
  • You will sometimes try and fail.
  • You will sometimes get beaten down

But you know you must keep trying. Because that’s the job of philanthropy facilitators.

Let me add to the definition of “philanthropy.” Robert Payton (the nation’s first full-time Professor of Philanthropic Studies and one of the founders of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University) defined it as: “Voluntary action for the public good.” I’ve always loved this definition, because every word is impactful. It’s voluntary (no one is being coerced). It’s action (something is actually being done, whether it’s service or an investment of money) and it’s all directed “for the public good.”

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Nonprofit’s ‘Unfair Advantage?’ You Deliver Meaning.

In whatever times we’re in, that’s what folks don’t have enough of. That’s what folks crave.

That’s what explained Nike’s daring move in 2018 to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, most famously known for taking a knee during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

In Why did Nike do what they did? Mark Schaefer of Grow, and author of several digital marketing books, explains why this was a brilliant idea. Despite the fact it generated controversy, including protesters burning shoes in the streets, Schaefer notes Nike’s move aligns with research highlighted in his book, Marketing Rebellion. The book explores how to connect with customers and build a brand in a world without loyalty.

The message of the book applies  to folks in the social benefit sector as well.

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Family making noise on balcony to celebrate first resonders

How to Discover Your Unique Coping Strategies

I confess. I’m a sucker for a quiz. I love to test myself, and compare my answers with others. We all need a little distraction to keep our minds off the news right now, right?  Some of us more than others.

So I want to share some quizzes, exercises, and assessments that may help you discover some important truths about the most interesting person on earth. YOU!

The way you cope during stressful times has a lot to do with your unique personality traits. Do you consider yourself self-aware? Do you know why you may be feeling particularly panicky right now? Or inexplicably calm and at peace? Do you know what makes you feel creative and purposeful? Even joyful?

Every night at 7:00 p.m. my neighborhood goes outside and stands on the street, sidewalk or balconies to make a little ‘music.’ The other night this kid took a spatula to the iron balcony and managed to make a lovely racket! The hospital staff around the corner and up the hill has let us know via social media that they hear us and appreciate us. It feels like a beautiful way to cope, if even for just a few minutes each day. All it took was one neighbor to organize it, and… voila!  I am grateful to that neighbor.

What are you doing to cope? How are you adapting, personally and professionally, to our ‘new abnormal?’

Are you living your life in the best way possible for you to make a contribution that feels authentic, productive and true to you?

Now is a terrific time for some good old-fashioned introspection.

Everyone brings their own gifts to the situation at hand. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ personality. Now’s a time to get in touch with, and appreciate, what you bring to the table.

Maybe you can help someone else – a friend, family member, neighbor or even a donor – overcome some of their own weaknesses right now. And maybe they can help you as well. Yin-yang. Give-take. Mutual support. Empathy and understanding.

Are you game?

I’ve got four fun things for you to try!

Even if you don’t love doing exercises and taking quizzes as much as I do, you may find one or more of these interesting. None of them take a lot of your time. And it’s even more fun if you do it together (with friends, family, co-workers); then compare and discuss results!

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Young girl hugging lion

Remember Who We Are: Philanthropy Facilitators

Philanthropy comes from the Greek and means love (philos) of humankind (anthropos).

*This article written 18 months ago seems equally, and particularly, apropos this week. So I’m sharing it again.

  • Nonprofits are here to be kind.
  • To repair the world.
  • To make our communities better, more just, more beautiful and more caring places.

This is not easy work.

  • Love is not always readily accepted or given.
  • Inspiring generosity takes time, talent and patience.
  • You will sometimes try and fail.
  • You will sometimes get beaten down

But you know you must keep trying. Because that’s the job of philanthropy facilitators.

Let me add to the definition of “philanthropy.” Robert Payton (the nation’s first full-time Professor of Philanthropic Studies and one of the founders of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University) defined it as: “Voluntary action for the public good.” I’ve always loved this definition, because every word is impactful. It’s voluntary (no one is being coerced). It’s action (something is actually being done, whether it’s service or an investment of money) and it’s all directed “for the public good.”

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